by carl wilson

Bad Bands Revisited, Part 1:
Constructive Destruction! Unity Through Idiocy!
(Guest Post)

Zoilus space-friend Chris Randle contributes his latest guest post, this week on the baddest of Bad Bands, The Riptorns. Comments disputing his interpretation of Brechtian "alienation" are invited. Have I told the story here about the director from the Berliner Ensemble whom I met in university, who asked what the English translation of Verfremdungseffekt was and winced painfully on being told it was "alienation"? - CW

When Carl mentioned his desire to explore the social implications of musical issues, I immediately thought of the most antisocial band in Toronto: The Riptorns. Their music is certainly abrasive enough - a cacophony of attempted guitar-playing and yowling - but the band's mindbogglingly atrocious covers of other Toronto groups are practically reverent in comparison to their stage presence. The Riptorns' stage persona is basically "destructive idiots." Their last real show, a showcase put on by torontoindie.com, was mostly made up of the band attacking each other, their equipment and the audience.

They managed to infuriate members of other bands on the bill, the bar staff and the person who unwisely booked them (apparently the trio still hasn't been paid for the show). Performing with scene sweetheart Laura Barrett at the "Voodoo" edition of Matt Collins' resurrected "In Search of ..." series last week, they not only made light of this but also cracked blowjob jokes about her. Their stage presence resembles a punk band on the surface, yet its insularity and obnoxiousness creates a very Brechtian distance - fed-up alienation instead of an urge to participate. Riptorns shows aren't about being lost in the moment; they force you to stand outside of it and look on as it stretches into an irritating eternity. But what I find intriguing about the Riptorns is that this is all an act, a deranged Kabuki mask. As civilians, the two main band members, Jeff Wright (also of We Had Wild Adventures and Bacon of Brunswick) and Ryan McLaren (heavily involved with Wavelength, co-founder of All Caps!) are both pretty much goofy, mild-mannered indie nerds. So what would possess them to try and become the most hated band in Toronto?

I can't claim to know their personal motives, but I think the Riptorns, perhaps inadvertently, are creating at least one positive social effect: they're a lightning rod for loathing. That emotion used to be encouraged (in The Iliad, Homer speaks of "strong Hatred, defender of peoples..."), and while things have obviously changed in the interim, I don't believe human nature is an infinitely malleable creature; hatred, like love, will be with us for the foreseeable future.

This is a bit tricky when it comes to music, especially since enmity towards entire genres ("I like everything except rap and country," kids in my high school would say) has been interrogated and questioned at such length. In a community like Toronto's, I think there's a real danger of that natural spleen turning inwards, becoming corrosive, poisonous rancor. It sometimes seems as though there's unreasonable disdain from some people in the local scene towards bands like Broken Social Scene and Metric (something I can be guilty of), or conversely an amazingly visceral dislike for less traditionalist, more conceptual projects like Bad Bands. Look at the recent K-os silliness, where that black artist accused a black Now critic of being the dupe of his white-indie-nerd bosses (as opposed to the white indie musicians K-os has collaborated with). (Zoilus' note: See Danko Jones' great riposte in this week's Now, in the 6th letter here.) It's divisive and damaging, differences in genre or approach or personality used as fodder for bitter arguments instead of discussion and/or collaboration.

But a band like the Riptorns is the perfect outlet for collective bitching: Their music is terrible, they leave a path of destruction wherever they go and the personae they adopt onstage are intentionally, gleefully reprehensible. The Riptorns aren't just a bad band; they're a little bit evil - our cuddlier, less unsettling equivalent of Mayhem or Skrewdriver. The Grand Theft Auto of music. And I suspect the catharsis may exist as much for the band members, allowing for an overflow of id, as it does for spectators. There's no pressure for them to create constructive, meaningful music: A Riptorn is free to express all the snarky mockery of local musicians that might've been building up within them. They can be satire, spurs (burrs?) or scapegoats; that last one also having the potential to be beneficial in its own strange way. Even Jesus needed a cynical little dick around before he could do the salvation-of-all-mankind thing.

- Chris Randle

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Friday, October 20 at 4:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)

 

COMMENTS

Tl, dr.

Posted by Jeff on October 23, 2006 1:37 AM

 

 

wow, now I REALLY want to see these assholes..uh...was that the idea??

Posted by nilan on October 22, 2006 4:14 PM

 

 

wow.

i am now going to rewrite this mcsweeny's article
(http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2006/10/17warner.html)
with the riptorns in place of jonny knoxville.

Posted by rachael on October 22, 2006 11:36 AM

 

 

You guys are complete fuckwits and obviously have no fucking clue what the fuck you're talking about. Your projected intellectualization is masturbatory and pathetic.

Posted by Ryan M on October 21, 2006 4:11 PM

 

 

I cant believe you called Ryan M. "a goofy, mild-mannered indie nerd". This is nothing like the suave crantini sipping man of international mystery that I know. Nonetheless, the riptorns are awasome and serve an important function reminding everyone not to take themselves too seriously. This is something that at the current juncture many playas in local indie music scene need to be reminded of.

Long live the 'torns!

G.

Posted by guy tanentzapf on October 21, 2006 12:30 PM

 

 

After reading Danko's letter, it seems essential that he join the Riptorns onstage as soon as possible.

Posted by Matt Collins on October 21, 2006 1:21 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson